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Alexandria Lira’s flipping the gaze… and rethinking uses for Tinder

Using a framework based on traditional portraiture, artist Alexandria Lira meets her subjects through Tinder – a platform where speed, vulnerability and sexual stakes are pushed to their extremes – in order to portray a raw and intimate expression of men in their private dwelling spaces.

Lira approaches her conquests-cum-subjects much as an anthropologist observes an undiscovered tribe: with care and respect, and added bravery in the face of unchartered first contact. Though her subjects know from the first message that they will be photographed, there still exists an inherently sexy danger posed by venturing into unknown territory, especially for a solo female artist cruising a hookup app in the name of art.

Lira’s portraits reveal young, modern intimacy at its most extreme through a lens of speed and disposability, traits ubiquitous in internet dating culture. Her willing subjects recline in full or partial nudity, unstaged and unguarded in their particular domestic scenes. Having met on Tinder, maintaining the sexual current of the arrangement is critical to the outcome of the portrait – though Lira never actually sleeps with any of her subjects. Her oeuvre is of the voyeur and without agenda, paying special attention to the books and knick-knacks that make each subject unique as she seeks accuracy in imperfection.

Once the subject has been photographed using the artist’s iPhone and only the available lighting at each location, Lira returns to her studio and selects the most intimate and raw photo from the session, printing it in large-scale directly onto canvas. From there, she embellishes each work with oil paints, starting with the body form and working out from there if inspired to do so. Color palettes for each work are chosen according to the emotional temperature of her subjects during their interaction with close consideration of body language and any other notable personality observations made during the initial session. Blues and purples perhaps connote a cool composure, while oranges and yellows invoke a more hostile, guarded experience. Shades of pinks seem to invite a playful curiosity into the room. Regardless of color, the unmistakable current of connection through sexual vulnerability informs every aspect of Lira’s paintings.

The paintings will be paired with a carefully selected object taken from the scene of the portrait. These artifacts are small, even insignificant; each one of the items is intended to accompany and add to the violation and performative nature of Lira’s sessions. Shaking off the anthropological practice of touching nothing and taking nothing, the artist dives into the irreverence of her investigations even further by memorializing her rendezvous with these trophies.

Got some Jack Kerouak? (Matt) presents a pink and blue-shaded figure in nude repose amidst a crowded corner of the subject’s space. Shelves of uncategorized books frame the figure, illustrating a well-read intellectual who was probably just looking for a good time. On the otherwise neat shelves, electronics and knick-knacks sparsely clutter any open spaces. Well-groomed plants peek through a curtained window and another rests on a shorter-stacked bookshelf.

Though the mood of the subject and his environment is captured in her painting and the thrill of the encounter immortalized in its accompanying found object, Lira wants viewers to draw their own conclusions about her subjects from the work. Somewhere amidst the nudity, performance of the sitter and the artifacts in their space lies the truth between ego and true self. Staunchly conscious of keeping a feminist agenda from informing her work in this series, Lira values above all else the act of taking risks to portray intimacy through an unconventional lens.

A Southampton native, Alexandria Lira studied Fine Art at the Pratt Institute. She lives and works in Brooklyn and her current show F#CKBOYS is on view at Roman Fine Art in South Hampton.

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